Sarasota’s oldest performing arts group stays in the headlines

·2 min read
Lee Gundersheimer, who was hired in January as the artistic director of the Players Centre for Performing Arts, was dismissed last week.
Lee Gundersheimer, who was hired in January as the artistic director of the Players Centre for Performing Arts, was dismissed last week.

The Players Centre for Performing Arts has been in the headlines a lot in the last few months, and not because of the shows the community theater is producing in its temporary home at the Crossings at Siesta Key shopping center.

There was the decision to pull out of the long-planned development in Lakewood Ranch, which led to the sale of the theater company's old home on U.S. 41 in Sarasota. There are ongoing negotiations with the city of Sarasota and the Bay Park Conservancy about the possibility of the historic Sarasota Municipal Auditorium becoming the company’s base of operations.

But last week’s headline was the most unexpected shocker. After just seven months, the theater fired new artistic director Lee Gundersheimer. It was sudden (at least to those not working there), and Gundersheimer hadn’t really had a chance to show what kind of artistic director he would be, other than planning the upcoming 2022-23 season. While praising Gundersheimer’s energy and talent, CEO William Skaggs said it turned out not to be a good fit.

He had the tough job of trying to fill the shoes of Jeffery Kin, who left in January after 15 years, to lead plans for a new Sarasota arts festival.

So now the company will start searching once again, though Skaggs said candidates from the previous search could be considered once again.

Another departure is coming, but this one is long-planned. Jim Shirley announced that he will retire as executive director of the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County by the end of the year. He’s been in the job for 13 years.

While some things end, others are just beginning, like the new season at the Manatee Performing Arts Center, where the Manatee Players open the hit musical “How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying.” We look at the show and the company’s upcoming season.

Florida Studio Theatre opens its final cabaret show of the season with “New York State of Mind – All the Hits of Bill Joel with The Uptown Boys.” The Uptown Boys are three singers who perform many (but not all) of Joel’s hits in three-part harmony with a lot of movement and an upbeat attitude. It’s one of several shows running at FST at the moment, including the murder mystery comedy “Smoke and Mirrors,” which I’ll be seeing and reviewing later this week.

And if you’re looking for something different, Selby Gardens continues its focus on photography with “Flora Imaginaria: The Flower in Contemporary Photography,” which flower imagery by some 50 photographers, including film director Pedro Almodovar. It is running through Sept. 25.

Enjoy your week in the arts.

Jay Handelman

Arts Editor

Follow Jay Handelman on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Contact him at jay.handelman@heraldtribune.comAnd please support local journalism by subscribing to the Herald-Tribune.

This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Arts in Sarasota-Manatee newsletter